(MENAFN- Gulf Times)
Four-time champions Qatar defeated United Arab Emirates 22-17 to notch up their third straight victory at the Asian Men's Handball Championship in Qatif, Saudi Arabia yesterday.
After recording another dominating victory at Prince Nayef Sports City Hall, Al Annabi topped Group C with six points as they cruised into the main round, which will consist of eight teams. The Valero Rivera-coached side has been placed in Group 1 in main group where they will face nine-time winners South Korea, hosts Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan. Al Annabi will play their first match of the main round against hosts Saudi Arabia in Dammam, tomorrow.
Qatar have won the 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2020 editions and can match South Korea's record of five straight titles with a crown in Saudi Arabia.
Since winning their first Championship in 2014, Qatar have been unstoppable in the continental tournament, beating Bahrain in three finals and South Korea in the last edition two years ago in Kuwait. The 2015 world silver medallists could match the record for most title victories in a row, currently held by South Korea from 1983 to 1993.
South Korea is the most successful team in history with nine titles, but the last of these came in 2012. Their best performance since then was at the last tournament, losing 33-21 in the final. However, they are down to sixth on the continent in the world rankings, sitting 49th worldwide.
Meanwhile, Iraq became the second team from Group C to advance in the tournament after beating Oman 31-29 in their final game of the preliminary round yesterday. Iraq are placed in Group 2 along with Kuwait, Iran and Bahrain.
South Korea won Group A after they edged Kuwait 27-26 in a battle to top group. In other match of the group, Jordan defeated Singapore 40-19 but both teams went out of the title race.
Iran emerged on top of Group B after a 24-20 victory over the home side while Australia defeated India 27-26 to register their maiden win in the event.
The Group D was won by Bahrain, who thrashed Hong Kong 46-20 for their third consecutive win. Uzbekistan finished runner-up in the group to enter the main round as they outclassed Vietnam 30-23 for their second win.
Top two teams from each group will book berths in the semi-finals of the event, which will be played on January 29. The final will be played on January 31. The top five teams from the Championship will directly qualify for the 2023 World Men's Handball Championship, to be held jointly by Poland and Sweden.
Saudi Arabia was awarded the tournament after the Championship was moved in September by the Asian Handball Federation due to the spread of Covid-19 in the initial host country, Iran.
Group A: Jordan beat Singapore 40-19; South Korea beat Kuwait 27-26
Group B: Australia beat India 27-26; Iran beat Saudi Arabia 24-20
Group C: Qatar beat UAE 22-17 (10-7); Iraq beat Oman 31-29
Group D: Bahrain beat Hong Kong 46-20; Uzbekistan beat Vietnam 30-23
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